In 2008, Grey County recognized that many of its rural residents and businesses were underserved by affordable high speed Internet. Leveraging funding from the Rural Connections Program (The Ontario Municipal Rural Broadband Partnership) and focusing investment from the private sector, the County dramatically increased the level of broadband availability from less than 25% in some areas to greater than 75% in most parts of the region.
Taking advantage of opportunities to leverage available resources, Grey County pursued and was successful in securing two intakes of the Rural Connections program - leading the way as one of only 15 municipalities to receive funding for broadband infrastructure through the Province of Ontario’s Rural Connections Program (The Ontario Municipal Rural Broadband Partnership), a $30 million, four-year initiative designed to reduce broadband infrastructure gaps in underserved rural regions in southern Ontario.
Through the Rural Connections program, the County leveraged $500,000 from the first round of the program and $1 million from the second intake in provincial funding as a one third contribution that allowed the County to build $5 million in broadband infrastructure. Through a competitive bid and tender process, the County contracted a private sector service provider to build a high speed wireless network to service businesses and residents, focusing particularly on areas where there were significant service gaps.
Grey County's leadership and investment in broadband infrastructure meant that the initial combined investment of County funding and Rural Connections funding was leveraged to promote private sector investment, resulting in $5 million dollars of broadband infrastructure being built by the following year (2009). The successful implementation of this project significantly increased broadband availability in the County, bringing the overall the rate of broadband availability to approximately 75% on a County-wide basis.
Building on the success of the Rural Connections program, the County has continued to invest in broadband infrastructure and lead the way in regional initiatives to connect residents and businesses in Grey County and Southwestern Ontario, particularly by acting in a significant leadership capacity for the Western Ontario Wardens' Caucus SouthWest Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT). In 2015, $216,000, funded from the tax levy, has been allocated towards Grey County’s contribution to the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (WOWC) regional SWIFT project, which is dedicated to increasing the level of service of broadband technology in southwestern Ontario. SWIFT is a long term vision for a sustainable system that will fund fibre to the home (and business) for all residents in the WOWC area, including Grey County.
Further to these initiatives, Grey County has also allocated $1,000,000 in a reserve for expansion of broadband in the County in alignment with the SWIFT project. An additional $50,000 from reserve will be used to hire resources to create a plan to best leverage the $1,000,000 reserve and get broadband deployed quickly in Grey County. This initial investment is expected to leverage provincial and federal funding to build an additional $10 million in fibre-optic infrastructure in Grey County over the next five years